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Living with dry, flaky, itchy scalp: a complete guide

Written by Ross Goodhart

Reviewed by Julie Karen, M.D.

Living with a dry, flaky scalp can have its downsides - from the daily embarrassment of brushing flakes from your hair and shoulders to the unfortunate fact that scratching an itchy scalp may lead to hair loss.

But there is a silver lining when it comes to itchy dandruff and dry skin: you can treat it. Although dandruff cannot be cured, there are effective remedies available that will stop scalp flaking (along with discomfort and embarrassment) in its tracks. 

The first step to managing scalp flaking might be as simple as buying the right shampoo for your scalp and hair. In this guide, we’ll discuss how dandruff shampoo can help treat your flaky, itchy scalp.

The lowdown on dandruff (and other common skin conditions)

Even if you have struggled with dandruff or other skin conditions for years, you may be unaware of what is actually causing your dry, flaky skin and hair. So let’s step back and cover some basics.

Dandruff is flaking that results from irritation of the scalp. Scalp irritation and flaking can be linked to a variety of other scalp conditions, such as psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis, and dry scalp. And while it might feel embarrassing to see flakes on your shoulders and hair, don’t worry - dandruff is common and rarely requires any medical treatment. In fact, dandruff shampoos and scalp treatments are an extremely safe and effective response (we’ll get to that shortly). 

Common dandruff symptoms include flaking skin on your scalp and facial hair, itchy scalp, and “cradle cap,” which is a term for crusty, scaly scalp in infants. It’s believed that dandruff is often caused by overgrowth of a yeast called Malassezia, but the science isn’t entirely understood.

And though dandruff can’t be cured, it can be managed easily so you stay flake-free for good. In fact, with the right dandruff shampoo, your scalp can be healthier than ever.

The top treatment for managing dandruff

If you are looking for an effective treatment to manage your dandruff, the best first-line treatment is a medicated dandruff shampoo. In particular, you should look for a Zinc Pyrithione-based dandruff shampoo

Scientific research has proven that Zinc Pyrithione is a safe and effective treatment for dandruff. It beats back the Malassezia yeast which triggers dandruff, and increases zinc levels in your scalp cells to help prevent dandruff in the future. 

What about natural home remedies?

Unfortunately, natural home remedies don’t cure dandruff. However, that hasn’t stopped some from touting the “cure-all” benefits of the following household items:

  • Aloe vera
  • Salicylic acid
  • Baking soda
  • Jojoba oil
  • Apple cider vinegar

Remember: None of these products can truly treat dandruff. And even though they appear relatively safe and natural, using these products outside of proven formulations can actually worsen your dandruff. Scalp chemistry and microbiome activity is incredibly complex, so throwing random treatments into the mix on their own is a crapshoot at best.

Scientific research has proven that Zinc Pyrithione is a safe, effective, and fast-acting treatment for dandruff.

Changing Your Habits

A high-quality dandruff shampoo can change your life, but in many cases, habits can contribute to dandruff, dermatitis, and itchy skin and hair.

Changing your habits is a way to possibly reduce the discomfort of itchy dandruff. For example, product buildup can cause and irritated scalp and dandruff. If you use hair products frequently, you might find yourself unable to rinse all of the products from your scalp and hair. In turn, this leads to sebum/oil buildup in your hair. 

Similarly, washing your hair with very hot water can worsen your dandruff, as can wearing tight-fitting hats. Another cause of dandruff is not using shampoo and conditioner frequently enough. We recommend cleansing your scalp with our Balancing Shampoo 3-4 times per week to control flaking, and following up with our Nourishing Conditioner to moisturize your scalp and hair.

Consistency Is Key

After choosing a dandruff shampoo, you might notice that your itchy scalp feels better, and your hair looks great. Although you may be tempted to return to your traditional hair products, this will likely be unhelpful in the long run. Using a dandruff shampoo consistently is the only reliable way to keep dandruff at bay for good.

Try a dandruff and scalp care subscription service

We’ve created Jupiter, a specially-formulated line of beautiful and effective dandruff and scalp care products that will help you remain compliant with your dandruff care. Sign up for our subscription service to receive dandruff and scalp care products on a regular basis (and avoid those last minute trips to the drug store).

Jupiter's dandruff care products are formulated on cutting-edge research to ensure your treatment is effective, and our scalp and hair care products will calm your scalp with luxe, clean formulations.

Balancing Shampoo

Meet our medicated head honcho. This soothing cleanser gets to the root of dandruff (flaking, irritation, dry scalp), thanks to our star active ingredient, Zinc Pyrithione. Proven to also reduce hair breakage by 30% - with a lush aroma of mint, vanilla, sage, and lavender - it’s bound to elevate your mood and your shower.

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